Friday, December 06, 2013

1262 Where's Our Nelson Mandela

1262  Where’s Our Nelson Mandela?


It was no surprise, but it was a shock, learning Nelson Mandela had died.  You know that reaching the age of 95 is a life threatening condition. But when it actually happens, it stuns.
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We all know his story.  Freedom fighter. Pacifist who turned to violence and spent 27 years in jail for his trouble, emerging in triumph to lead his country from its insane policies, which he called “racialist” with that big rolling R.


Walking from behind bars in a chaotic parade seen ‘round the world, he stood at a fork in the road.  One side led to black-white rioting.  The other to relative peace, equality of opportunity, desegregation and economic recovery.


All he had to do was nod toward one tine of the fork or the other and that’s where South Africa would have followed him.  He picked the correct path.  And if you need any evidence that he did right, you need only look at the crowds in Johannesburg and Cape Town to see that those who mourn are equally composed of black and white.


One term as president and he went from jailbird to rock star.


In the runup to Mandela’s release, much of the world was on a South African pulverization bender.  Sanctions. Boycotts.  And it wasn’t just America.  We had plenty of real allies in that one.


Many European WWII refugees had enormously mixed feelings about the boycott.  While hating the “racialism,” they had found homes in South Africa when much of the western countries were limiting the number of escapees they’d admit.  South Africa’s stand then was “All you have to do is get here and you’ll have a home.”  


But no sane person accepted apartheid as moral or normal or acceptable.  


South Africa is far smaller than the United States.  And it lags behind us in every useful measure.  Except one.  It found a leader who could unite a very divided country and clear a path for people with strong and opposing views to work together in their own interest.


We could use some of that here.


When you look at the United States today, you’re seeing a large and complex country and -- for the moment -- the only superpower, drowning in stubborn petty destructive and unnecessary fights over minutia.


So, where is our Nelson Mandela?  Is there someone out there who can do for us what Mandela did for his country?  Is there anyone among the more than 300-million Americans who can take us away from all this?


Or is that just a pipe dream.  Are we too big, too ungainly and too far down the wrong path to turn this mess around?


A lot of us thought Barack Obama might be that person.  At least we thought so in 2008.  When 2012 rolled around, that thinking had changed dramatically, but we gave him a second chance… probably since the opposition reminded so many of a spoiled, hormonal teenage girl in a business suit.


But Obama is not Nelson Mandela.  Which is our loss.


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013


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